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Three Things to do When Your Child is Sick

Published on Jan. 08, 2024

As a parent and pediatrician, it is impossible to get through our winter season without a few coughs, colds, and sleepless nights. This winter our hospitals, emergency departments and urgent cares are seeing high numbers of illnesses like common colds, Flu, COVID, and RSV. It is practically impossible to completely avoid all these infections, and it leaves us parents feeling a bit defenseless. Here are a few tips for getting your kids through those sick days this winter. 

  • Think ahead! 
    • Make sure you have all the tools to keep your kid comfortable through the sneezes and sniffles.  Double check that you aren’t out of the appropriate formulations of Tylenol, Motrin, and any prescription inhalers they need. Kids will often appear worse when their fever is high. Fever control is one of the best things to do to keep them comfortable. Cool mist humidifiers can help with the nighttime cough. Over the counter cough and cold medicine for children is not recommended as it isn't proven to make them feel better faster and can sometimes have unwanted side effects.  
  • Prevention is key.
    • Staying up to date on well child checkups with your pediatrician is important for your child's health.  Reviewing their medications and ensuring they have their vaccines is a good way to prevent serious illnesses.
    • Frequent handwashing and attempting to avoid exposure to others when they are sick can help reduce the chances of your child coming down with a cold.  
    • If your child is having active fevers, vomiting, or diarrhea - please keep them at home to limit the spread of illness.
  • Know when to get help.
    • Low grade fevers, lingering coughs, and a few episodes of vomiting can be taken care of at home or discussed with your primary care pediatrician. It is important to seek help when your child is continuing to worsen and support at home won’t cut it.
    • Reasons to take your child to the emergency department include: 
      • Dehydration due to persistent and uncontrollable vomiting without the ability to drink liquids.
      • Increased work of breathing. As kids begin to have trouble breathing, they start to use muscles they don’t normally use to breathe. This is noticeable by seeing: excessive use of their stomach and ribs as they breathe, head bobbing and/or nasal flaring. 
      • Sudden and severe changes in behavior including the inability to wake or if they are having difficulty communicating. 


About the Authors

Hailey Nelson, MD, FAAP, IBCLC is a complex care pediatrician at Valley Children’s Charlie Mitchell Children’s Center. Dr. Nelson enjoys working with children of all ages and abilities and is especially passionate about providing the best possible care to medically fragile children and their families. As the ambassador for Safe Kids Central California, she is a vocal advocate for children’s wellness and regularly appears in news media discussing pediatric healthcare. She is also a licensed breastfeeding consultant, certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultants to support nursing mothers and their babies. Learn more about Dr. Nelson here. 


Dr. Nicholas Garza is a Central Valley native who comes to Valley Children's from the University of California, Davis School of Medicine and is in his third year of Postgraduate Residency. His interest in medicine started from being a patient and later a volunteer at Valley Children's during his youth. Dr. Garza is an advocate for providing healthcare and resources to underserved populations and believes in a philosophy of giving the highest quality care, compassion and medical knowledge to his patients and families. Learn more about Dr. Garza here.